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Eight Bad Assumptions We All Make and How To Remedy Them

These eight assumptions have the potential to get us in trouble - big trouble. They destroy clarity, create distrust, and stand in the way of organizational success and personal success. These assumptions are the ones we make based on our own behaviors, attitudes, and skills.

These eight assumptions have the potential to get us in trouble - big trouble. They destroy clarity, create distrust, and stand in the way of organizational success and personal success. These assumptions are the ones we make based on our own behaviors, attitudes, and skills. We start by assuming that others think, act and have skills similar to our own. In fact, each of us is so unique that assumptions based on behaviors, attitudes and skills will result in being wrong at least 70% of the time

An example:

A client had a manager who was highly intelligent, very energetic, demanding and always looking for new approaches to problems. Not a bad combination of attributes in a manager. He was also firmly convinced of the rightness of his ways. The business he was managing was in crisis - it needed firm direction. The problem was the frequency of new initiatives. He would direct his limited staff to new issues requiring action and resources on a weekly basis. The stretched thin, survival trained staff did all that they could to keep up - but they invariably fell behind. Lots of balls in the air - lots of activity - no additional resources. The manager assumed that since he had instructed his people on what to do that they were doing it - and they were afraid to tell him the truth.

He assumed his people would act the same as he did when his boss told him to do something. He would make his boss's request his first priority, and do whatever had to be done to get it done. He assumed his people would do the same when he made the same kind of demands.

That was a bad assumption.

He was very proud of all the things he was doing to turn this business around, and for the first few months, progress - measured by activity - was good. And then the cracks started to show. Shipments delayed, quality issues, turnover of critical people, earnings estimates missed. His response was to turn up the pressure to get the things done that he had assumed were either done or well on their way to completion. He was stunned to see that very little had really changed. His people were bogged down - too many balls in the air - too many things to focus on. He was fired.

So much of what had happened could have turned out differently, if he had assumed less, and verified more.

What follows are eight of the most dangerous assumptions we all make in our work - every day. They have the potential to be fatal to our careers.

The assumptions, a short narrative and a suggested remedy for each follow.

Assumption 1 - My boss and I are on the same page.

The newer the relationship, the better the chance that this assumption is wrong. Often very wrong.

Remedy - Ask your boss to write down the 3 to 5 most important things that you must do , and you do the same. Exchange your answers being in agreement on 2 to 3 out of 5 is very good.

Assumption 2 - My people and I are on the same page.

Once again, the newer the relationship, the better the chance that this assumption is false - and really dangerous.

Remedy - Do the same thing with your people that you did with your boss - do the boss thing first.

Assumption 3 - I shouldn't have to ask.

Why not? Every one else has to. The very idea that other people should know what to do or how to act is so far from the truth that many, many relationships are destroyed by the assumption that someone should know enough to keep you from having to ask.

Remedy - Ask. If asking sticks in your throat - and it does for a lot of people, read the "Aladdin Factor" by Victor Hansen. Terrific book Then ask.

Assumption 4 - People will do what I tell them to do.

Not necessarily. There are lots of reasons that they may do something other than what you anticipated. More pressing work, a misunderstanding about what is to be done, conflicting priorities, you name it, it exists.

Remedy - Create goals with the end in mind. Then communicate the goals, then hold regular updates - formally or informally, depending upon the culture of your organization.

Assumption 5 - People see things the same way I do.

Not true. Put a group of people in a room - show them the same picture. Watch the different interpretations, conclusions, ---. And yet they were all in the same room - given the same instructions - looked at the same thing. Amazing.

Remedy - Create goals that clearly state the result and the steps to take to reach it. Involve the people who will participate in meeting the goal in the development of the goals.

Assumption 6 - My managers have all the freedom they need to accomplish their goals.

Probably not. Reminds me of a highly experienced manager hired to run a Canadian acquisition of a US. His boss, the CEO, told everyone he had complete authority. Actually, he couldn't approve even a $10 expenditure without corporate accounting's approval. As soon as that became apparent, he lost a lot of influence with his people. The CEO said accounting had to be involved. His idea of involvement, the new manager's and the accounting department's take were very different. It never got resolved. The new manager resigned after 6 months.

Remedy - This is where the bureaucracy needs to be checked carefully. The boss assumes their people have the same approval and indirect reporting relationships and understandings as they do. Not. The boss needs to lead in developing effective, consistent working relationships up, down and sideways for their people.

Assumption 7 - People who speak with conviction are experts on the subject.

Not necessarily. Often the person speaking the loudest and with the most conviction is in fact drowning out the real expert who doesn't share the same behavior profile.

Remedy - Make sure all have the opportunity to voice their contribution. Be skeptical of all inputs until all the players are heard. Don't let anecdotal feedback overly influence the decision. How often have we all heard about the mysterious "they" that said something and it got play way out of proportion to its value and substance? Check any newspaper for examples of that dynamic.

Assumption 8 - People will see the same opportunity the same way I do.

No they won't. In fact, roughly 70% of the population will see consequences and problems before they see opportunities - if they see opportunities at all. That leaves 30% that may see things the same way you do. Both consequence and opportunity people are valuable, contributing people in every organization - value both of their inputs.

Remedy - Be sure to communicate what you see as the opportunity in terms of your people's interests. And be sure to listen to and value the issues and problems the pessimists will bring up - better to get them on the table than have them fester in the group without recognition or resolution.

Assumptions can be the biggest hurdle every manager and leader has to overcome in their career. Assumptions made about them, assumptions they make about othersHealth Fitness Articles, all have low probability of being accurate. Start by checking your own thinking against the 8 assumptions stated in this article. Then act to replace them with goals; to create communications that align effort with expectations; to create clarity Start today.

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Andy Cox helps clients align their resources and design and implement change through the application of goals focused on the important few elements that have maximum impact in achieving success - as defined by the client. He can be reached at or

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